A lot of people see me as pretty “adventurous”. I left home to go to college across the country, where I knew absolutely no one. I decided to study abroad in China for seven months having never been to Asia before. After graduation, I packed my bags and headed back to China for a year to teach English in the middle of nowhere by myself. I backpacked Taiwan for a few weeks on my own this summer, and I’m planning on traveling to Thailand and Cambodia this winter, whether or not anyone wants to come with me. In a week, I’ll be packing my bags again for another year in China, where I’ll be getting my master’s degree!
Yeah… I guess you could say I don’t really follow the beaten path.
I’ve always been independent. Apparently I was a horrible two-year-old. Everybody learned a long time ago that when I set my sights on something, there’s no stopping me. I don’t take “no” for an answer.
I recently came across this article by A Dangerous Business titled: Am I a Lame Traveler? In it, she talks about how she’s been judged as a travel blogger for not visiting “adventurous” locations.
While I would never judge her for backpacking Europe instead of Africa, I have a confession to make… Sometimes I do judge.
I am a huge proponent of travel. Whether it’s a weekend camping trip, or a trek through the Himalayas, I love watching people explore the world and challenge themselves. That said, sometimes I read articles or listen to people’s stories, and I can’t help but find myself thinking, “really?!”
For example, a few months ago I read a post by a girl who said that Kuala Lumpur was her least favorite place because it was “dirty and boring.” I had given myself a few days in Kuala Lumpur, two of which were on my own. I was a bit nervous, and afraid I wouldn’t like it.
When I arrived in the city, I couldn’t help but think “What was that girl talking about?!” There was so much to see, do, and eat; I wish I had a few more weeks to see the rest of Malaysia! Her comments stuck with me so much, I spent more time checking out her blog. This blogger was living and teaching in Hong Kong, which she describes as “dirty, crowded and overwhelming.”
Well… that explains a lot.
I shouldn’t have judged this girl, but I did. Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. Heck, ASIA isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But I found myself judging her negativity and lack of openness.
Does this look dirty and boring to you?
But you know what? A blog is a place to be honest. Maybe moving from England to Hong Kong was really difficult for her. Maybe she’s not used to the bustle and grime of a city. Maybe she was homesick and overwhelmed. It’s not my place to judge her feelings. She might have grown to love Hong Kong; or maybe she realized Asia isn’t the place for her. Just because I love Hong Kong, doesn’t mean she has to.
In college I studied abroad in China for seven months. I was constantly busy studying Chinese, immersing myself in the culture, traveling, and learning. I found it really hard not to judge the girls that went to England with all of their friends, and spent the majority of their time drinking and hanging out with other foreigners.
I knew it was wrong to judge, but I couldn’t help but think my study abroad experience was more “authentic” than theirs. I felt like studying abroad in a non-traditional location was somehow superior. I thought the fact that I spent three hours a day learning Chinese, and about four more hours a night doing Chinese homework, somehow made my experience better than theirs.
Well you know what? There’s always going to be people with cooler stories, more adventurous trips and more authentic experiences. The important thing is picking travel that’s right for you.
Some of you may think I’m extremely adventurous, but I pale in comparison to a lot of people I’ve met.
To me, traveling solo in Taiwan for over two weeks was a big deal. To others, it’s a walk in the park. I’ve met girls who are spending a year backpacking across the globe solo. But you know what? Those same girls are just as impressed with my life in China, teaching English in the middle of nowhere.
Living in China whilst studying at a British university is absolutely no big deal compared to the last year I spent teaching English in the Chinese countryside. Does that mean I should judge those that are nervous to even set foot in China? Of course not! That was me a few years ago!
Everyone has different comfort zones, and it’s important to be respectful and not judge. You only want to travel in Europe? You like guided tours and nice hotels? You can’t speak another language? Everyone travels at their own pace. I’m just excited for anyone that is willing to give travel a chance.
There’s always going to be someone five times more adventurous than you. My goal through this blog is to encourage more people to travel, especially in Asia. I hope that through my experiences, I can help others feel more comfortable traveling in places outside their comfort zone.
For those of you that haven’t made travel a priority in your life, that’s okay too. People have different interests and passions, and not everyone can be as obsessed with travel as I am. Some of my friends are getting married and having babies, while I’m trying to figure out what country I want to live in the year after next.
There’s nothing wrong with getting married at 23, and I have to say I’m a little jealous. It’s hard to hold down a boyfriend when you never know where you’re going to be for more than a year! Would I give up on travel for a relationship? Definitely not. I’m only interested in guys that want to travel with me!
For those people I have silently judged in the past: I’m sorry. We all judge from time to time, and it’s important to take a step back and realize that everyone has different priorities. My dream trip is not the same as yours, or anyone else’s. The best we can do is be supportive of everyone’s goals and dreams.
Nobody likes the hostel one-upper who thinks he’s cooler than everyone else because he’s been to 37 countries and “only travels off the beaten path.” I’ve been told I’m not a “real backpacker” because I don’t travel for months at a time. Excuse me?!! I live in China by myself while you’re getting drunk with other foreigners at a hostel bar. Do you not see my backpack sitting there???
Travel isn’t a competition. Life isn’t a competition. We all have different priorities, goals and dreams, so let’s stop judging and start living (myself included).
Have you ever found yourself accidentally judging other travel styles or travelers? Do you have a hard time refraining judgement from those who have no interest in travel?
73 comments on “Trying Not to Judge the Less Adventurous”
Great post – and it’s nice to find you, through A Dangerous Business. I agree, we are all guilty of judging from time to time and although I think it’s part of our human nature to do so, I try hard not to. Everyone follows their own path from actually getting in a car or on a plane, or just being comfortable as an arm chair traveler following others around the world. I am in awe of those who take on certain parts of the world that are absolutely not on my radar. I would love to spend months (and months) exploring eastern Europe, Italy, Greece… but I have no desire to travel to southeast Asia, although I enjoy reading/seeing it through the eyes of others and I hope I can bring some of the world to my readers – without judgement.
I totally agree! I loved reading Johnny from OneStep4Ward’s post about Papua New Guinea, but I have absolutely zero desire to visit (especially after reading his post!)
Love this – As an expat living with my hubby in Korea teaching English I completely get it. Everyone gets so caught in doing this, judging one another on everything imaginable. It’s so important to just allow everyone to do their own thing, and respect it as such. I have a similar post that’s been brewing for a while this gives me a push to finish it ~ thanks!
~ Andrea <3
Definitely finish it Andrea, I’d love to hear what you have to say on the subject. As a fellow expat, I know it’s all too easy to judge the foreigners that only hang out with other foreigners, spend all their time in expat bars, and never learn the language. I try not to judge, but sometimes it’s hard!
I can definitely relate to this. Although I do live a very comfortable life in a first-world part of asia, the language barrier and culture shock aspects sometimes make me look at people I know who are complaining about having a tough time adjusting to say, England or America, and just think “…really?” But these days I absolutely realise that different people have different ideas and feelings when it comes to “adventurous travel” . We can never really know what others find challenging – sometimes we don’t even know where to draw the line when it comes to challenging ourselves. When it comes to travel, some people like to throw themselves in the deep end, and others don’t even want to visit the pool. I think either choice, and anywhere in between, is fine!
By the way, as someone considering a move to China to teach English or study my masters (both of which I see you’ve done/will do!) I’d love to hear more about either of those things from you :)
I totally agree Annabelle! I dated an Australian guy that considered studying abroad in America (at my university) a big deal. I visited him in Australia and it was a walk in the park. I think I’d have more culture shock if I moved somewhere else in the US than if I moved to Australia!
If you’re considering teaching in China, you should definitely check out my “teach abroad” category in the sidebar, which has all my teaching posts. I’ll be sure to write a lot about grad school too! If there’s anything specific I haven’t written about that you’d like me to address let me know! I’m sure other people will have the same questions, and I can write a post on it :)
This is such a good topic, Richelle! I think as “world travelers” we can very easily get prideful. We compare ourselves to our friends living “safe lives” in our home countries. And we compare ourselves to other expats who spend most of their time looking for the closest Starbucks rather than looking for a new friend.
In some ways, I think that the longer we spend living abroad, the more easy it is to be judgmental. We think we are “experts” of the culture/language/city even though we’re still foreigners!
Great thoughts. Thanks for sharing them with us. :)
I totally agree Chris! The longer I’m abroad the more I judge expats who don’t try to integrate themselves into the culture. But then I meet people who have almost no foreign friends and are completely fluent in the language and I feel lame all over again!
These pictures are AMAZING! And i gotta admit, i’m a little jealous of all your adventures. I’ve always wanted to travel but haven’t actually gotten the chance yet,
Thanks so much Risa! I’m sure you’ll find the time to explore the world, even if it’s just a week every few years
Richelle this is a nice post, btw how long have you been travelling?
Thanks Jun! I’ve been traveling since I was little (with my family), but I started traveling on my own when I studied abroad in China in college.
Thanks to my parents who traveled a lot when I was a child, I developed a love for traveling early on, and it is something that I now enjoy doing with my family. I know that traveling isn’t for everyone, though, because like you said, everyone’s level of comfort is different. :)
Exactly HilLesha! I’m lucky I had a family that enabled me to travel when I was a child. I think it really gave me a great perspective on the world, and helped me be a more “adventurous” adult
I too love to travel. I have been to Hong Kong and lived in Malaysia ( Pulau Penang) and visited Kuala Lumpur, I loved them all so I don’t get the other blogger either. Oh and don’t miss Singapore. I loved the shopping and the food there as well.
I really want to go to Singapore! I’m just waiting for a plane ticket I can afford :)
You have an adventurous life. I agree in a way that when people give judgement about a place, it can come from a premise that they experienced. The good thing here is not to generalize, which can really be taken out of context.
I agree Frank. Some people have different priorities than me, and it’s not right to judge people for being different
In my book you are very adventurous.. when i left home, i went to a different state not country.. i look forward to reading about how you are getting along and traveling all throughout Asia!
Thanks Kungphoo! I tested the waters by going to college in a different state. I think that really prepared me for moving abroad, because I was used to being away from home.
I recommend that everyone should take a chance at travelling it’s an amazing experience.
I agree! But of course I can’t force my opinions on other people :)
People judge. It’s what we do. Even the best of us. It’s an ugly, ugly part of the human condition.
That’s so true Stacie. I judge all the time. We all do!
It’s hard not to judge other people. Even the best of us do it. I think it’s something that’s hardwired into the human brain.
I agree Ben. I’m trying to be better about it, but it’s hard ;)
You remind me of my sister. She, too, is a brave one and has gone backpacking alone several times. I, on the other hand, always need a company. I do love to explore but locally in North America. :)
It took me a while before I was brave enough to travel on my own! Sometimes it’s best to start with baby steps
Agree 100%. I moved to China in 2004 with a backpack full of naivete…and ended up making it home. It works for some people, and not for others, and learning to adapt to people on both ends of the spectrum is all part of the adventure and growing experience! Good for you!
It’s crazy how much moving to another country can impact you and your life. I don’t know if China will work for me forever, but I’m making it work now!
I try not to judge but I think most of us do it some point or another. That is so awesome that you travel, I’ve visited other states and would to go further some day.
That’s awesome that you want to travel further. There’s so much to see in America though, I’ve barely explored my own back yard!
Don’t apologize for judging people – apologize for negative actions that harm them. My sister spent two year training to teach ESL in South Korea. She went and stayed two weeks before coming home. She couldn’t stand it despite her obsession with the culture.
Sometimes the countries you love aren’t what you expect them to be. Great story!
Your pictures are gorgeous! Oh my I love the ice festival in China. I wish that they had that here.
The Ice festival was so cool (literally and figuratively). I don’t know of many places in the US that are cold enough for it- maybe Minnesota?
I love travelling and now that my kids are older I am planning on travelling again soon. I am not adventurous enough to go to Asia by myself but I would certainly tour North America on my own.
North America is a great place to travel. There are so many options for everyone!
Great post and what an adventure you are on. Thanks for sharing with those of us who are totally not adventurous.
No problem Nolie. Glad you enjoyed!
It’s phenomenal to go after your dreams and know exactly what you want like that. Bravo to you for living your life to the fullest.
Thank you so much Liz! I’m still young and figuring things out, but for now I’m happy living abroad
I like that you didn’t let someone else’s opinion of a place affect your going. I find that one person’s boring is not always another’s!!
Exactly! Rarely am I ever bored unless there’s absolutely nothing to do
I think life takes different people on different “adventures” not everyone’s involves passports and time changes. I had a blast traveling during college and afterwards. Yes, backpacked rural China and Thailand on my own. But now I am back in small town, rural America and love that adventure with 3 small kids as well. I don’t judge and I am not jealous. I love the path I chose. :)
Exactly! I know my life will probably take me on new adventures when I’m older. Having a kid is a huge adventure!
Haha! I do get the KL comment. I was there for a day and only scratched the surface and oh… I had the jetlag from hell. Next time, I am giving it a proper go. Promise. I travel a lot within Europe (though traveling through Africa, the USA and Australia was amazing!!), but since all the Euro countries are so different and there’s SO much to do, there are actually loads of apportunities to stay off the beaten track. I kind of make a living of that ;-) However… I have no patience for people going on package holidays who say ‘Oh, I have been in Greece’ when all they did was lay beside the pool and drink cocktails. So yep, I judge too!
Hahaha I totally agree Esther! I would love to backpack through Europe when I get the money! I love how different each country is from one another
Such beautiful pictures, I’m so jealous of you!
Thanks so much Alyssa!
You do have quite the adventurous lifestyle. For me, adventure is making a surprise trip to Starbucks & ordering something off the secret menu. Maybe when my kids are all grown up I’ll take it to the next level & tackle Asia. ;-)
I have yet to try the Starbucks secret menu so you have me there
If I didn’t have children instead I probably would have been a traveler. I love to be adventurous, but I also love antiques, and from another part of the world would really be exciting. Love your pictures, and I don’t judge people where they go. I envy them. Love their pics.
Thanks so much! Maybe you can take your kids on short adventures and kill two birds with one stone?
Nice article, good job for a great traveler like you! I’m sure you have so much adventure before and it’s nice to know that you travel with your family.
Thanks Katherine! I’m really lucky that I was able to travel when I was younger, and I really want to make sure travel is a part of my kids’ lives (someday)
I love this post and can definitely agree with you! It happens, I do judge sometimes but it’s nothing personal. For example, I could never stay in a youth hostel, I really need a nice, private hotel with a great breakfast :) By the way, I would love to visit China (mainland/country), Malaysia and Hong Kong one day! I teach English as well (taught in the UK for a period of time).
Teaching English is such a great way to explore Asia! It’s so cheap to visit other destinations
This article is awesome, those pictures are amazing as well.. If I didn’t have a billion kids, I wanted to do this.. maybe when they’re all grown, haha
Maybe take them with you?! My parents were nervous to take my brother and I to Europe, but it ended up working out great
There is a quote I remind myself when I judge or when a foreigner becomes a douche:
Judging other people doesn’t define who they are….it defines who you are.
That is such a good quote!!
Only those who have the guts can do what you do :)
I have no desire to travel outside of my own country for a while, at least until my children have grown a bit, as I lived in the UK for a year and it made me truly appreciate the Canadian countryside, culture (and the diversity it includes) and yearn for the things that I had not yet seen at home. I plan to explore all of the regions of my own nation, then branch out.
I don’t judge those who are different, nor do I relate better to people who feel the same- we can all learn from one another :)
It’s crazy how living abroad can really make you appreciate the things you used to take for granted back home
I hear ya on a lot of this. We can relate, we run into this a lot. I can’t imagine living in China though! We just spent 6 weeks there and it was enough for me. Tibet though, soooo glad we spent the money and overlanded to Mt Everest. I agree on the adventure side of it, we often bump into other travelers that just stay on the main circuits and never really get out into some real adventures. Your right, it’s hard not to judge, but each to their own. We’re living more extreme and we love that. Cheers!
You’ve been to Tibet too? That’s awesome! It was definitely one of the coolest trips I’ve ever done
Yes! We were just there and it was amazing. We visited Lhasa and then over landed to Everest base camp.
Nice! I wish Everest was on our itinerary. I thought it was going to be, but apparently we needed a few more days, we did a trek from Lhasa to Kathmandu
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I really enjoyed reading this, I love your writing style- very open and honest.
I too feel the same, especially when it’s about integrating into the country/culture vs drinking and parties. I’m one of the few expats living here in Maldives who actively researches the country and spends the weekends exploring various local islands around the country. I’m always asking if anyone would like to come with me on weekend trips, and they seem like, sure they’d love to, but wait- there’ an International Hotel with an alcohol licence a mere 5 minute ferry ride away, but there isn’t any alcohol on a local island. I’m surprised people can be so needy of alcohol when back home we can drink it whenever we like.
But that’s me judging again. I’m the youngest (21) and the least travel experienced expat in this country. What do I know?
I definitely feel that way too! I go out and drink in China sometimes, but it’s important to find balance. I would never choose partying over a weekend trip or exploring the local culture. While I do think it’s important not to judge, I find myself wondering why someone would travel so far away from home just to get drunk. But I guess party tourism is a real thing. I met some guys that are planning a solid 2 weeks in Thailand just to party and get drunk on different islands.
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